Monday, 2 June 2014

Some Fine Day by Kat Ross

Some Fine Day by Kat Ross is the author's début novel. I began reading it with some trepidation since the YA SF I've read recently has been rather hit and miss, but I needn't have worried. Some Fine Day delivered on its potential.
Sixteen-year-old Jansin Nordqvist is on the verge of graduating from the black ops factory known as the Academy. She's smart and deadly, and knows three things with absolute certainty:

1. When the world flooded and civilization retreated deep underground, there was no one left on the surface.

2. The only species to thrive there are the toads, a primate/amphibian hybrid with a serious mean streak.

3. There's no place on Earth where you can hide from the hypercanes, continent-sized storms that have raged for decades.

Jansin has been lied to. On all counts.
Some Find Day was a good read with only some little niggles impinging on my reading experience. I particularly enjoyed that the plot was a bit more complex than some YA books. It wasn't quite the standard book one formula of A: world sucks, B: main character notices, C: she starts to change it. There were a few extra letters in there, and I was glad that the big conspiracy wasn't the simple Everything Is A Lie (despite what the blurb implies).

The world building, especially from a societal point of view, is pretty good. The society Jansin lives in is martial but realistic. There isn't, for example, some outer wasteland where useless people are sent to die. Instead, there's an ordinary seedy shanty town populated by druggies and criminals. The government employs propaganda but isn't as restrictive as it could be (until you cross them, but that's another matter) and isn't as absolutely secretive as in many dystopian YA books. I would, in fact, not call this a dystopia. It's post-apocalyptic, yes, and there are problems with the government, but not significantly more so than in the present. And, in general, there are diplomatic relations in place with other countries/regions that the people are aware of.

Most of my niggles were minor things. For example, Nu London is indeed more or less what's left of the UK and yet it strikes me as a fundamentally USian name. "Nu" and "new" are not pronounced the same way in all British accents. To me, "nu" looks like it should be pronounced "noo", which is how yanks say "new", not how the rest of us (well, in the UK/ANZ) do. There was also the confusing matter of Jansin's train to her training academy making a five hour trip within the same prefecture, whereas the train to Nu London took only six hours. Also the author referring to GPS for position information when GPS actually refers to the specific set of satellites (the general term is GNSS to include other sets of satellites) and, of course, wouldn't work underground. It's not that they can't have an underground system of position awareness, it's that it should be called something else. I am also curious about the ever-slighted Southern Hemisphere. If the hypercanes can't cross the equator, does that mean the five hypercanes they've named are all in the Northern Hemisphere, or are only three in the north with two in the south? In the latter case, it sounds like the Southern Hemisphere is the safer place to be, since we know for certain that the fastest and most destructive hypercane lives in the north. On the other hand, I was initially a bit suspicious of the temperature not being an issue underground (especially since they use geothermal power) but it ended up being addressed in passing later in the book.

Overall, I enjoyed Jansin's character development. On the one hand there was the expected shift from being raised in the military system to seeing the outside world and changing her views. I particularly liked that Jansin started seeing things differently just from her holiday near the start, before more spoilery plot events forced her to re-examine her views. I don't think that happens all too often in these sorts of stories. Closer to the end, the method Jensin uses to get away from the bad guys is also unusual in YA and it was gratifying to see her considering some of the implications. And that was a very vague sentence because I'm trying to avoid spoilers.

Another thing I enjoyed about Some Fine Day was that, as well as the Rest of the World actually existing (so rare!), there was a pretty racially diverse cast of characters. We mostly just have names go off, but there are a lot of different ethnicities represented, which is always nice to see.

I found the underground setting a bit hard to picture at first, but when Jansin came back to it after a holiday/interlude on the surface (near the start), I found it much clearer; it was easier to see how it worked when we had a comparison, I think. (Although I still think it's weird that they live in houses inside caves, instead of using caves as houses, but I can see how it relates to making things seem "normal" to help people adapt. But still... other civilisations have lived in caves...)

All in all, I enjoyed Some Fine Day and what small niggles I had were overshadowed by the good parts. I highly recommend it to fans of YA and especially post-apocalyptic YA with a different approach. As I've said, I wouldn't really call it dystopian, but you can't deny that hypercanes caused by catastrophic global warming are apocalyptic. I would also recommend it to anyone looking for YA with a slightly more complex plot than standard. It's not a very short book and it uses the extra pages well. Small niggles aside, this is the kind of YA I'd like to see more of (even more so if it weren't for the niggles, I suppose).

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: July 2014, Strange Chemistry
Series: Seems to be...
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

2 comments:

  1. That sounds pretty good. Like you, I'm often frustrated by the formulaic nature of YA SF so it's good to hear there are authors around who are breaking out of that mold. Is Kat Ross an Australian author?

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    1. No, she's from the US (and it shows).

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